New Discovery of Phosphorous in the Subsurface Ocean of Enceladus as a Boost for its Habitability Published in Nature
News from Jun 14, 2023
A team of researchers from Freie Universität Berlin led by Professor Frank Postberg, together with international collaborators, has discovered phosphorus in ice grains emitted by Saturn’s moon Enceladus, originating from its subsurface ocean. Phosphorus is one of the six essential elements for life, known as CHNOPS (Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus and Sulfur) that has evaded detection in Enceladus’ cryovolcanic plume… until now. Using data from the Cosmic Dust Analyzer, the researchers detected the phosphorus in the form of phosphates within ice grains believed to be frozen ocean droplets emitted into space. They inferred phosphate concentrations which are more than 100 times higher than in Earth’s oceans.
Although there is currently no evidence that the ocean is actually inhabited, this new discovery makes Enceladus’ ocean the place with the most favorable conditions for the emergence of life in our solar system outside the Earth. The article is published in the journal Nature on June 14th.